Governor Barbour’s Plan to Help Retain
our Furniture Jobs in Northeast Mississippi

Background information on the Mississippi furniture industry:

• The furniture industry is an economic development cluster in Northeast Mississippi which directly employs 27,000 Mississippians and another 23,000 through related suppliers. Within Mississippi, the industry has a $4.1 billion total industry output and generates $1.4 billion in wages.

• As a result of international competition and unfair and illegal trade practices by China, Mississippi has experienced a 12% net loss of these jobs since our peak furniture industry employment in 2000.

What has been done?

• Even before Governor Barbour was elected in 2003, then-Secretary of Commerce Don Evans (the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for enforcing fair trade practices) visited Tupelo at Haley’s request to see firsthand the impact of the cheating by the Chinese. Since then, the Bush Administration has successfully pressured the Chinese to begin reevaluating their currency to provide a more level playing field for our manufacturers.

• The enactment of what the Wall Street Journal called “the most comprehensive tort reform legislation in the country” will continue to reduce the cost of doing business in Mississippi, which will make our furniture manufacturers more competitive in the global marketplace.

• The Community Development Foundation leadership told Secretary Evans in 2003 that the most important issue for the state to address in the effort to protect furniture jobs in Mississippi was to improve workforce development. Since then, Governor Barbour signed into law a sweeping reform of our state job training systems and state funding for workforce development has significantly increased.

• Higher taxes and more regulation would increase the cost of doing business, make our manufacturers less competitive and therefore cost Mississippi jobs. Governor Barbour has consistently opposed higher taxes and supported a common-sense regulatory environment.

• Governor Barbour worked with local leaders in Northeast Mississippi to acquire federal government approval to include Northeast Mississippi counties in the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) program. A FTZ is a physical area within the United States that is treated by customs as though it were outside of the U.S. border. A company located in the FTZ will save money through reduced duties, tariffs, and regulatory relief.

Governor Barbour’s Next Steps:
• Assist Northeast Mississippi furniture companies in accessing the benefits available to them through the FTZ by providing a state grant to match at a 50-50 cost share each company’s investment for financing the substantial application, activation, training and other one-time start-up costs. At least five Northeast Mississippi companies are ready to proceed. If successful, more than 2,000 jobs will be saved.

• Twice a year, the Tupelo Furniture Market brings 35,000 furniture buyers from 50 states and all over the world to Tupelo. Not only does the market provide direct benefit to the area merchants and furniture companies, but it is an especially valuable resource for the smaller furniture businesses in Northeast Mississippi as they strive to attract buyers for their products. If they had to depend on finding their buyers at the new Las Vegas market, the costs for these small businesses would increase and thereby threaten Mississippi jobs. To assist in marketing the benefits of the Tupelo Furniture Market to buyers around the world, the state will provide a $200,000 grant at a 50-50 cost share to the Tupelo Furniture Market.

• These funds are available through the programs funded in the Momentum Mississippi legislation.

 


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741
         

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